Paying for items used to be so simple, but it continues to grow more complicated with the introduction of mobile wallets for specific companies.
Target is the latest to jump on the trend, as today the mega retailer announced its new Wallet for mobile payments, which can be found on both the iOS and Android versions of the Target app.
As with many other mobile payment systems, Wallet is a way of checking out with your smartphone at the register. At Target (as with Walmart), this is essentially the only way you can do this as the retailer doesn’t accept Apple Pay or Android Pay. (Samsung Pay reportedly works at Target for some users because it’s not based on NFC.)
The main appeal of Wallet, though, is that it allows users to both pay with the app and scan coupons from the company’s Cartwheel program and automatically apply the discounts. Paying for items and applying Cartwheel discounts used to take two different steps, but the Wallet allows Target shoppers to simplify those multiple steps into one.
The catch, for now, is that you need to have one of Target’s REDcards for debit or credit purchases to use the app, but Target plans to extend the service beyond RED members at some point in the future.
Target’s announcement post plays up how much faster this process is compared to “other payment types,” which presumably refers to traditional swipe and chip-and-PIN methods. Naturally, it neglects to mention that Apple Pay and Android Pay would be faster still as they remove the extra step of having to open an app.
You also can’t use gift cards with the Wallet feature at the moment, but that feature will be coming “soon.”
Whether users gravitate to Wallet is another question, but Target is certainly doing what it can to stay up to speed with rivals.
Scrambling for a gift? Check out our best tech 2017 guide!
If you ever see a Finn staring at his mobile phone, chances are that he’s watching a video. According to figures from GlobalData, users in Finland churn their way through 13.3GB per SIM every month, nearly six times the European average and more than 18 times the data usage of Slovakia, the least data driven country.
The figures are slightly misleading, however. Some countries, such as France and the UK have low monthly mobile data figures because of the large numbers of low data-intensive M2M cards that are bringing down the average. In the UK, for example, average monthly mobile data usage is 1.98GB, but smartphones use up to 2.6GB and connected data devices 2.8GB; only the 291MB of the M2M brings down the average.
Users from all countries are increasingly turning to data, often driven by high usage of video. A survey last month from OpenWave Mobility found that the high volumes of HD video was not only adding to the data being used but was causing operators to struggle to cope.
But some operators are doing their best to encourage this high use and that can lead to some rather unusual countries being known as heavy users, even though they’re not countries with traditionally large mobile computing history. This is generally down to operators offering unlimited data packages. These countries include Austria with 5.7GB per SIM, Poland (3.7GB) and Russia (3.5GB).
Speculation has been rife through the year as to when Amazon would open shop Down Under – with a soft launch notification sent to sellers just before Black Friday sending everyone into a tizzy to prepare themselves for great bargains during the big sales event – Amazon has finally launched its online marketplace in Australia.
Just after midnight today (December 5) Amazon opened its digital doors to Aussies, expanding on its range of e-readers and ebooks to include laptops, cameras, phone accessories and plenty more, all ready to be bought right now.
At present, there are 23 categories listed on Amazon Australia’s site, and ABC News reports there’s more to come in the near future (we hope).
Although the catalogue at the moment seems limited, Amazon Australia’s county manager, Rocco Braeuniger, has said that “millions” of products from Aussie retailers will be sold on the digital platform, with a long-term commitment being made to the Australian economy.
“Over time, we will create thousands of new jobs and invest hundreds of millions of dollars in Australia,” he said.
Of course, if you’ve been waiting for Amazon’s smart speakers to be officially sold in Australia, you’ll have to wait till early next year to buy the ‘Strayan version of Alexa-powered Echo range.
Delivered to the door
Amazon’s delivery speeds is one of the main selling points for the company’s popularity in other markets. The retail giant is bringing its promise of next-day delivery to Australia as well with Priority Delivery, and free delivery is available for products worth over $49.
There is, however, no news on whether or not Amazon Fresh will be delivering Aussies their groceries any time soon.
Can’t find the product you’re looking for on Amazon Australia? Here’s how you can safely buy tech from Amazon’s overseas marketplace in Australia.
Vodafone might be a tad late in joining NBN bandwagon, being the last major Australian telco to announce its NBN service, but the company is doing so in style.
Starting today, Vodafone NBN plans are available in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Geelong and Newcastle with some interesting perks.
Vodafone is offering a 30-day network satisfaction guarantee – you can leave Vodafone within 30 days if you’re not happy with the service – and a 4G backup service made instantly available during installation or when a fault has been detected in a customer’s line.
The backup service will make use of the telco’s mobile network and will work through a Wi-Fi Hub that Vodafone will provide at no extra cost on a 24-month plan or for $150 upfront on a month-to-month plan. The 4G backup will be available for up to 30 days with maximum download speeds of 12Mbps.
Plans start at $70 for unlimited broadband and Vodafone promises that customers can change speed plans once per billing cycle with no fees incurred.
Speed checks will also be conducted for FTTN and FTTB connections within the first 15 days of installation.
To celebrate the launch of its NBN service, Vodafone is currently offering customers in the aforementioned five locations three months free on a 24-month plan, with the offer expiring January 31, 2018.
The Vodafone NBN rollout will continue over 2018, but you can check if Vodafone’s NBN is available in your location by heading to the telco’s website. A complete list of plans are also available on the site.
Looking for a broadband plan? Find the best one that suits your needs by comparing 40 providers.
If you’ve got a Google Home Mini smart speaker that doesn’t seem to cope well with the volume getting ramped right up, you’re not alone – it appears that some of the dinky little units will reboot if they get asked to start cranking out the tunes at maximum volume.
The problem doesn’t appear to affect every Google Home Mini out there, fortunately, but a thread describing the issue on the Google support forums has attracted quite a few posts, so there’s definitely something going on that shouldn’t be happening.
Now TechCrunch reports that Google has confirmed the problem is a genuine one, and a fix is in the works. If your unit is affected, you’ll just have to turn down the volume a little until the patched firmware gets rolled out, most likely through the Google Home app.
Patch it up
Given the size of the speaker, it’s not really built for pumping out the tunes anyway, which might explain why relatively few people have reported crashes on their Google Home Minis. Still, Google will be keen to stamp out the bug as quickly as it can.
Google’s continued push into making its own hardware devices hasn’t all been smooth sailing over the last few months, with screen and audio issues affecting some Pixel 2 handsets, and the company will be hoping 2018 is a quieter year in terms of software patching.
Back in October it was discovered that the Home Mini also had a sneaky habit of recording audio when it wasn’t supposed to, something Google dealt with by disabling the press-to-talk feature altogether. The bigger version of the speaker, the Google Home Max, is expected to go on sale this month.
Google may merge with Nest (again) to better take on Amazon
Mindfulness is big business at the moment, and I thought it was about time I tried the meditation movement of the moment for myself. And where better to start than with the household name in mindfulness; Headspace.
The app itself is beautifully designed, with a cartoonish style, avatars to guide you through the different sections, and animations that are just on the right side of childish.
I’m sure this is a pretty common experience, but there’s something about someone trying to do ‘calm’ that makes me want to be the opposite. And this was definitely how I was when I first sat down with Headspace.
Resisting the rest
There’s something about Andy Puddicombe’s soothing, geographically nonchalant voice that made we want to scream: ‘pronounce ‘t’ properly!’ at my headphones. The performer in me was there thinking ‘he must have been sitting really close to the mic for this’ and the tech-pedant was frustrated that the audio was a little fuzzy.
That said, I managed to commit myself to the breathing, and thinking about breathing, and breathing, and thinking about breathing, and before I knew it, I was actually feeling more relaxed. I realised that I was way too tense about the lovely Mr Puddcombe’s accent. He can pronounce ‘t’ however he wants.
And I wasn’t only mentally tense. My right shoulder seemed to descend by about 12 feet, my ribs noticeably loosened, and I noticed that I was clenching my buttocks as if I was trying to crack a nut.
It’s pretty staggering how much you don’t notice about your body unless you actually focus on it. I’d just kind of assumed because of my physical theatre background that I was very ‘in’ my body, but apparently not.
Forming the habit
Headspace does a very clever thing that it’s free to download, and there’s a full week that you can do before you actually have to pay for anything. Anyone who knows about habit forming will know that you only need to do something five times for it to become a habit, which means that Headspace is forming a habit, then asking you for money.
From an app that has clearly put a lot of work into psychology, the cynic in me thinks there’s an element of manipulation at hand here, but frankly I can’t blame Headspace for the manipulation.
Mental health is still a massively under-discussed element of health and it’s a little sad that I’ll think nothing of spending money every month on my gym membership or on Netflix, but when asked to pay a monthly subscription for my mental health I baulk.
I suppose there’s something in the fact that it’s more difficult to quantify results. I know when I’ve gained muscle mass. I know when I’ve binge watched an entire series of Punisher. But my mental health?
It’s a weird one, because since starting Headspace, I’ve noticed an improvement in my mood; I’m less anxious, less angry, less prone to negative thoughts. It’s just not a concrete thing I can pin down, so it’s easy to dismiss it as correlation rather than causation.
One thing that keeps occurring to me is that Headpace feels a little like religion for atheists. There is something about the silent contemplation that feels a little like prayer. The daily meditations that feel like sermons.
It’s interesting that Puddicombe is himself an ordained Buddhist Monk, but there isn’t a religious aspect to the app. My wording above mirroring the title of Alain De Botton’s book Religion for Atheists, was no accident. It feels like in creating Headspace, Puddicombe has implemented an element of that book; taking the positives of the practice of religion without the religious aspect.
Perhaps I’m over thinking it. It turns out I have a habit of doing that. Whatever the case, I’ll definitely be continuing with mindfulness.
Headspace is available to download from the App Store and Google Play Store, and is free to download, with access to the full app available for a monthly ($12.99, £9.99), yearly ($96, £72), or lifetime ($399.99, £299.99) subscription.
Andrew London is a laughable excuse for a human being, barely held together with string and sticky tape. InTech Yourself Before You Wreck Yourselfhe will be sharing with you the different technology that he uses to try and pass for a proper functioning person.
Specs and features are all well and good, but when you pull your smartphone out of your pocket, what people are really judging you on is the color of your handset – and it sounds like Samsung could have a surprise in store for the Galaxy S9 device launching in 2018.
Sources speaking to SamMobile say that the company is thinking about adding a purple option to the roster for next year, alongside the regular black, blue and gold options, so if you’re looking to buy something that stands out from the crowd then you might have one more color to pick from.
Incidentally the same color rumor did the rounds last year before the arrival of the Samsung Galaxy S8, though in the end a purple option didn’t appear – so until we actually get confirmation from Samsung, don’t take this as something that’s definite.
Those rumors in full
We’re expecting to see the successor to the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus appear at some point in the first quarter of 2018 – last year Samsung unveiled its flagship handsets at the end of March, so it’s likely that next year’s phones will follow a similar timetable.
Under the hood we’re expecting a Snapdragon 845 chipset or an upgraded Exynos chip from Samsung, depending on where in the world you’re buying it from, while the design of the phone is going to be largely similar to the 2017 model – more curves are coming to Samsung’s handsets, but they won’t arrive until after the Galaxy S9 launches.
Meanwhile the bezels are likely to get even smaller, which means even more screen space for your viewing and swiping. A brand new color option may not make a huge difference to sales in the end, but if you were thinking of picking up the phone, you might have more styles to pick from.
Here’s everything we know so far about the Samsung Galaxy S9
The growth of open hardware is undeniable and we’ve had high-profile smartphone projects appearing such as Purism’s security- and privacy-focused Librem 5 smartphone.
The ZeroPhone project led by Arsenijs Picugins is no less ambitious but much less expensive. As we started this interview we noted, with some irony, his apologies for the intermittent mobile connection as he’s taking a break away from his home city of Riga to enjoy the countryside of neighbouring Lithuania.
While you’ll be able to make calls and send SMS with Picugin’s ZeroPhone, it isn’t as cutting edge as Purism’s smartphone. Instead, it sits firmly in the middle of the makery and hacking spirit that powers the big budget open hardware projects.
The phone’s design is pragmatic, with its use of the raspberry Pi Zero, surface-mounted switches and 1.3-inch, 128 x 64 monochrome OLED screen, but it’s a clever approach to a DIY Pi phone and Picugins, a 22-year-old student from Latvia, is hoping other enthusiasts will snap it up as a kit when he launches a crowdfund to cover manufacturing costs.
In its current form, the ZeroPhone is a Raspberry Pi Zero in a ‘PCB sandwich’ that has Wi-Fi (using an eSP8266), HDMI and audio outputs, a free full-sized USB host port and a micro-USB port for charging. One feature that has caught the attention of hardware hackers is the use of GPIO expansion headers for hardware add-ons and customisation – Picugins is still working on a 3G modem (more on that later). On the coding side, it uses Python and has a UI toolkit designed to make app development quick and easy.
Question: The big question is can you assemble a phone from easily available parts, using cheap boards running Linux?
Arsenijs Picugins: Well, I’m making sure it’s the case. Right now there are two people who are trying to assemble the phone independently. It’s a slow project and I don’t yet have all the assembly instructions published and polished, which is one of the things that I’m trying to finish for the Hackaday Prize deadline that’s in 20 days. But it’s one of the selling points from the beginning, as it’s possible. You can get components that make up a phone together, unite those components together and just assemble the whole thing and put some solder on it. This is pretty much what manufacturers do […]. Of course, they assemble the phones by using a lot of automation.
Q: Do you have to be reasonably competent at soldering to do this?
AP: Yes, I don’t think assembling this phone is suitable as a first-time project in soldering. I think it’s a second- or third-time project. Also, a large part of soldering can be automated [Picugins has access to a Pick&Place machine in the Riga hackerspace]. So I can provide kits with the hard-to-solder parts already assembled. Even then, without hard-to-solder parts already on, people still can assemble it themselves – I can just have to simplify the process.
For example, there’s a Github where all the schematics and board files are available. One example of hard-to-solder parts that are easy to automate are buttons – you don’t have to sell just the keypad and buttons separately. I can just solder them on and sell it to people like that in the form of kits. The parts that are either hard or expensive to automate, this is something that would be economical and reasonable to let the recipient do, because otherwise I’m afraid it will drive the price point too high.
Q: So you’re keen to keep it around $50 (around £37) for all the components?
AP: For all the bits, yes. But this is how much the bits cost, bill of materials. Right now it’s around $40 (around £30) and I might add $5 of components, but then if I’m selling kits myself and have to package them, test them and ship them, then the kits aren’t going to cost $50. But I want to stay below at least the $100 (around £75) mark, because it’s a psychological limit above which it’s harder to justify spending money on something.
Q: For the phone itself, what’s the situation with software? What OS are you using?
AP: So there’s an operating system which is Raspbian Linux. But Linux itself works great, because it’s on a Raspberry Pi. Among all things Raspberry Pi is famous for is software support. It’s really great, even though there are closed source bits, which are sometimes problematic. I think it’s one of the best for support right now, when speaking about single-board computers. They have the resources and take user feedback into account.
Q: So it’ll be running a cut-down version of the Raspbian distribution?
AP: It’s without the desktop environment. There’s a Raspbian Lite distribution and that’s what I’m using and it makes sense to run something without a desktop (by default) on a small phone like this. Speaking about the UI, right now it’s Python powered. There are no X server drivers, or something like Gnome native Linux support for it, so it’s a tad problematic, but there still isn’t a good UI framework for Linux phones with small screens. There are all types of Android frameworks, but I don’t know of any UI framework that I could use even if the screen had a frame buffer, so there just isn’t such a thing except for what I’ve developed.
So I had the option of using something of my own or using some kind of library for the screen and writing all the applications myself and not use all the terminal utilities that are available or I could spend a lot of time to make some kind of frame buffer bindings and then put up with the illegibility of the console because it doesn’t have enough characters – it can only have the standard 24 to 8 characters on screen, when standard is 80 x 24 and some apps require that. So I had to roll something of my own. [This interface was based on of one of Picugins’s earlier hackaday projects called pyLCI – see here.]
Q: Do you think down the line, you might go for a higher-resolution screen?
AP: Like touchscreen? Looking at the situation with screens that you could connect to the Raspberry Pi, the thing is this is one of most reasonable solutions as the interfaces that Raspberry Pi provides do not give that much leeway to work with. For example, there is an SPI interface, but the refresh rate is not going to be good and there’s not going to be hardware acceleration. There’s HDMI, but screens that use HDMI usually consume plenty of power. That would also complicate the hardware design, because HDMI lines require a lot of attention because of the requirements of the PCB layout.
There’s also DSI interface: it’s the interface to go [with] if you want to make a portable device with a large screen, but it’s neither accessible on the Pi Zero which I’m using, [nor] is it documented. They’ve not documented that interface and do not provide an API to connect your own screens. I have one interface that I can reasonably use for a mobile and that’s SPI, but the refresh rate is not that good for large screens. You can have SPI screens that are well built, but you’re basically limited to Adafruit or Sparkfun or some Waveshare product, but I didn’t want to specifically limit it to that selection as it’s not that accessible to me. They really don’t have much interest here.
Q: You’re saying distribution is limited?
AP: Yes, exactly. Also, this small screen is an interesting limitation. It’s an interesting mental exercise thinking about how to fit everything into such a small screen; make the interface usable and use physical buttons to a large extent […]. It works and it’s still cheap and it’s also a simple way.
Q: In one of your posts somebody was looking at coming up with a different way to work with the UI? You’ve got people wanting to help collaborate?
AP: Yes, absolutely, people helped. There was a small road block from my side because I couldn’t send out hardware to contributors for quite some time, due to hardware problems I was solving. But now I’m sending out hardware that people can work with. For example, I’ve sent hardware to one guy who is interested in making Wayland run and he’s done some software demos of this small screen, e.g., this 128 x 64 pixels viewport working with openGL.
Q: That’s exciting – how is the chassis design going?
AP: I’ve sent out hardware to case designer volunteers. I’d really like to outsource. I’m mostly feeling overwhelmed because there’s so much to do, so people have been really interested in making a case [for the phone]. So I’ve sent out three phones and I’m going to send out three more. I’ll continue sending them out to those people that want to help. I don’t really have that much experience in 3D modelling. That’s why there’s not a case yet, as I can’t make it myself. I’d need to spend even more time learning how to do it myself.
Q: How is the crowdfunding project progressing?
AP: It’s not quite ready yet. I have the most important part, the financials, to be prepared. And there’s also the fact I want to make a stable hardware revision, which will be the next revision, so that I can account for the bill of materials changes that might be necessary, and make sure they don’t impact the manufacturing in any significant way. That’s been a blocker for the last five months. It’s been getting ridiculous even for me, but I want to make sure everything is going to be okay as even though I have people who can give me advice, I really want to make this project succeed and not stumble upon something unforeseen.
So I’m making sure that the crowdfunder is as good as possible. I know for example that this revision needs some more self-assembly instructions and I need to get more feedback and check the financials so there’s no chance of me running out of budget during the manufacturing. So, yes, it’s mostly about me being nervous.
There are two people that I know of that are already trying to assemble the current revision, but there are also six people that want to assemble the next revision. I’ve already bought parts for them, now I’m working on the PCB design. So, self-assembly is a real priority. After all, it’s something nobody really offers, but it’s completely possible to achieve.
Q: Have you managed to get the ZeroPhone to support 3G?
AP: It basically needs the 2G modem replaced with the 3G and it’s possible, but I’m constrained by the dimensions of the 2G modem that I’m using, so I’m trying to design around those dimensions.
Two weeks ago, when I was finishing the 3G upgrade board, I ran into limitations, so I’m thinking about a way around them by either increasing the vertical dimensions of the phone or basically having a part that sticks out a little. I’m waiting for a solution to come to me while I have PCBs to make for the next revision. But it’s definitely one of the priorities for the crowdfunding.
There’s a survey for those who want to get a ZeroPhone or are interested in the project, so I’ve been collecting replies and I think 3G is the most requested feature. So I have to have 3G to offer for the crowdfunder or it will be a serious disadvantage.
Q: You also have add-ons for the ZeroPhone. Can you tell us about those?
AP: I’m using some of the interfaces that the Raspberry Pi provides, but there are a lot of interfaces that are free as well. I’ve connected those interfaces to expansion ports on the sides of the ZeroPhone and I thought why not have some boards that would simplify tasks like programming and working with flash chips? Then I understood, for example, I could design a board that has a circuit for a laptop BIOS chip and use ZeroPhone to reprogram the BIOS off a laptop in order to, for example, deactivate Intel Management Engine (which truly worrying vulnerabilities were recently discovered in) or something like that.
I can desolder the BIOS chip from my laptop; I can plug it into a ZeroPhone add-on board and use available BIOS chip programming tools in order to read the BIOS contents, modify them using, for example, Me Cleaner, a utility from Purism. I can modify the BIOS image and flash it back into the laptop and I’m going to have a management-disabled laptop.
This has been one of my side projects and I’ve come to understand that ZeroPhone is also quite a powerful hardware hacking platform and those expansion ports will make it even better at it, and it’s something I can do to make hardware hacking more user-friendly.
Q: What do you think of Purism’s Librem phone?
AP: I find it extraordinarily important, and I believe this project, if successful, is going to be a breaking point in history of open source phones. How I see it is that we’re voting for our ideals with our money, and if we succeed, it’s going to make other companies listen to us and understand what we care about – even if a tiny bit.
Furthermore, ZeroPhone, postmarketOS and Purism Librem are going to have a big overlap in software, reducing effort duplication and therefore increasing quality – and I’m sure there has been sufficient evidence that software quality can make or break any open source project. I believe we can make a lot of changes in this field.
Purism is making really modern hardware and they do need a lot of money to accomplish that. PostmarketOS is taking old phones and giving them a new life with Linux, and I’m taking these accessible single-board computers and making them into phones and hardware hacking kits.
To learn more about the ZeroPhone project and possibly get involved, head to the main project page and its Github repository.
(This interview was first published in issue 184 of Linux User & Developer).
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Amazon has just dropped the price on its brand new Amazon Fire TV 4K streaming media player. We’re not just talking a few bucks off either, we’re talking $20 of them to make this the best price on a 4K streaming device we’ve ever seen.
The new 2017 version of the Amazon Fire TV is now in the form of a dongle to plug into an HDMI slot around the back (or side) of your TV. This is a much better design than the old box, as we’re sure you already have enough hardware surrounding your TV as it is.
The new Alexa-powered voice remote is excellent for asking it to find you specific programs or movies to watch and all the leading streaming services are supported. Netflix, Prime Video, YouTube, Hulu, HBO, Showtime and Starz are good to go if you have memberships.
This marks the cheapest way to stream 4K HDR content onto your TV as rival 4K-ready Roku/Apple TV devices or 4K gaming consoles are much more expensive. Heck, at this price, it’s only $10 more than the cheapo Amazon Fire TV Stick (the one that doesn’t do 4K), so you may as well future-proof yourself with this one for when you get a 4K TV.
That’s not the only big discount Amazon is running today though as there’s still a huge saving to be had on the excellent Amazon Echo Dot which is down to $29.99 instead of the usual $49.99.
In 2017 Apple released its cheapest full-sized iPad ever, giving more budget-conscious tablet buyers (think schools and businesses) a lower-cost option to those shiny, feature-packed iPad Pros that support the Apple Pencil and clip-on keyboards and all those other extras.
Well, in 2018 Apple is apparently going to go even lower – DigiTimes is reporting that the 9.7-inch tablet will get a price cut to around US$259 (roughly £190 or AU$340). The current model starts at US$329, so that’s a drop of more than 20 percent.
That would make it even more appealing for schools looking to kit out a classroom of kids, or anyone wanting to get some Apple tablet goodness at a very decent price, but given the hefty price drop that the tablet was given this year, it’s questionable whether Apple could pull off the same trick again so soon.
Do the maths
As AppleInsider points out, the iPad would probably have to use inferior-quality components or make other sacrifices to the tablet to hit that price point. What might actually happen is that the hardware remains unchanged but the tablet gets discounted as it gets older.
DigiTimes and its anonymous sources have a varied track record when it comes to predicting what Apple’s going to go, so don’t bet the house on this one yet. There’s no doubt though that Apple will want to continue having a few budget iPads on its roster.
Next year should be packed with Apple products, from the successor to the iPhone X to the delayed HomePod smart speaker. One of the first new devices we might see is a refresh of the budget iPhone option, the iPhone SE, which might give us a clue about what’s in store for Apple’s lowest-priced iPad.
The best iPad 2017: how to choose the right Apple tablet for you